If you were busy celebrating the Buddha’s birthday somewhere else on Friday here are some of the highlights from the Cheung Chau Bun festival….
From 2-4pm the Cheung Chau festival took place. “Dragons”, locals and Buddha statues were paraded across the island. A real festival atmosphere was created by the hordes of people (over 40,000 are estimated to have attended), the clapping, cheering and general music.
Cantonese opera was also being performed in the area near the Pal Tai Temple playground, and the elaborate costumes and make-up was a sight to behold. The peacock inspired headdress one performer was wearing was particularly extraordinary.
For foodies amongst us the traditional buns were being sold (as you might expect) as well as unusual colored sweets that children could blow up through straws. Enterprising locals were selling homemade fruit juices – great relief from the heat.
The ever-popular bun scramble was the main event. Hong Kong’s night owls stayed up until 11.30pm to watch as nine men and three women dashed up a tower covered in buns. Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr. Tsang Tak-sing started the event by banging a gong. The finalists then had three minutes to climb the 14-metre tall bun tower and grab as many buns as they could.
The bun towers are divided into zones and buns have different point values: one, three or nine. The more difficult they are to reach the more points they are worth (sounds rather like an average Friday night boys’ night in Wan Chai).
The winner was Mr. Kwok Ka-Ming who scored 939. The second place went to Mr. Ho Sin-fai who scored 836. Leading the pack for the women was Wong Ka-yan getting 603 points.
What you did not miss however, was the sticky heat and the crowds. At times it felt like we were wandering around inside a giant sardine can. Yet despite long queues to get on and off the ferries, and the oppressive heat, the festival was great fun and a unique experience – definitely something to tick off the “to do” list.
Book it in the diary for next year and remember to bring some patience and a sense of humor. It is the Buddha’s birthday after all.